Under the Open Sky: Meeting Up with the Southwest Washington Mycological Society

By Kimberly Mason

Kimberly Mason / For The Chronicle. Local area mycologist Gene Butler examines a mushroom brought into the Southwest Washington Mycological Society meeting last Tuesday evening by Pauline Wolfe of Toledo. "This one is a Tapinella atrotomentosa," Butler said, "it's poisonous and will cause anemia." SWMS members bring their mushrooms to Butler for just this purpose, to help them learn to identify which mushrooms are safe to eat and which are not.

For The Chronicle
George Jensen of Pe Ell caused quite a stir in the Historical Lewis County Courthouse meeting room last week when he walked through the door and into the monthly meeting of the Southwest Washington Mycological Society with a cauliflower fungus (Sparassis crispa).
“It’s a choice edible,” said Jim Byrd, a member of SWMS and Winlock resident, “it’s among the best of all the fall fungi.”
They are, however, rather hard to clean, he said.
“They get a little buggy,” said Jensen, “especially in the fleshier parts.”
The cauliflower fungus is a parasite of tree roots, especially of Douglas fir, which is exactly where Jensen found his specimen. They can grow to an impressive size, this one was the size of a soccer ball.
It looked like a mass of ribbon-like edges from lasagna noodles. I had to take Byrd’s word for it that it is delicious, I wasn’t about to break off a piece from Jensen’s huge prize and try it for myself — besides, I wasn’t interested in the “extra protein” I was sure to encounter if I dug in.
Jensen said he soaks his cauliflower fungi in salted water overnight to remove many of the bugs.

Monthly Meetings
SWMS meetings are held at 6 p.m. on the first Tuesday of each month at the WSU Lewis County Extension Office conference room located in the lower level of the Historic Lewis County Courthouse, 351 NW North St., Chehalis.
Non-members are welcome to attend the monthly meetings of the society.
If you attend a meeting of the SWMS, bring any mushrooms or fungi with you that you have found, carried to the meeting in a paper bag (plastic does nasty things to fungi), for local mushroom expert Gene Butler to identify.
The book of choice for SWMS members is “Mushrooms of the Pacific Northwest” by Steve Trudell and Joe Ammirati.

Join the SWMS
Membership is open to anyone interested in becoming more skilled at identifying, cooking and cultivating mushrooms and fungi. The society holds monthly meetings, hands-on workshops, and mushroom hunting forays throughout the year.
Membership fees include a $10 initiation fee and a yearly membership fee of $24, due on the second day of the new year. The membership fee will be pro-rated if it begins at another time in the year.

Kimberly Mason / For The Chronicle. Mushrooms gathered by the Southwest Washington Mycological Society set on a table in the meeting room last Tuesday evening, waiting for local fungi expert Gene Butler to examine and identify.

Non-members are welcome to attend the monthly meetings of the society.
For more information contact Debbie Burris, WSU Extension Office, 740-1212 or email debbie.burris@lewiscountywa.gov.
Visit the society website at http://swmushrooms.org.
Foray on Saturday
The SWMS will sponsor a mushroom foray on Saturday, Nov. 17 at 10 a.m.   The foray will be held at the Millersylvania state park and will be limited to 25 participants.
Spaces will be offered to SWMS members first, but if you would like to participate in the foray, please contact Kim Weiland at kim.weiland@lewiscountywa.gov or call 740-2793 to check to see if there is room for you in the hunt.
The park does require a Discover Pass which can be purchased for $10 when you arrive.

Kimberly Mason is a freelance writer and photojournalist. Visit her website at almostdailynews.com, find her on Facebook (Kimberly Mason — The Chronicle), call 269-5017 or email kim@almostdailynews.com.